My dear friend and long time supporter of this site, Christian Long at think:lab, got me fired-up to reveal the three biggest challenges I faced while producing and directing these two award-winning corporate videos dealing with epilepsy for the teen market.
Many of you have written me wanting to know what goes through my mind as a director while producing and directing corporate videos. While there are dozens of important decisions to make throughout the life of any video, I hope that this post will give you a glimpse on how a few decisions were made to tell a corporate video story.
Challenge #1: "What are we trying to fix? What is at stake?"
Solution: Turn myths into facts.
One of the biggest challenges in starting any corporate video is isolating the problem or issue at hand. A question I'll often ask to get the ball rolling is: "Why do you want to produce a video?" In other words, "In a perfect world, what do you want the video to do?" While video is an incredibly powerful and emotional medium, it does have its limitations. Matching the issues at hand with the emotional power of video is the first critical step in determining what shape, style and tone the corporate video story will take.
--What are we fixing? Correcting decades of misconceptions about epilepsy was the biggest issue for us to tackle.
--What is at stake? Perpetuating the years of ill-guided and unkind treatment towards those with epilepsy.
Challenge #2: "How do we produce two cool, hip and entertaining epilepsy videos for the teen market while educating them and correcting the myths surrounding epilepsy?"
Solution: Create an emotional connection through peer identification.
The "Take Charge of the Facts" video is more educational and medical in nature. As a documentary filmmaker, I am naturally inclined to interview people to tell their story. This video was a different situation. I had to make sure we got the right information out in the right way. Depending upon "real people" interviews would not work. Hmmm...what to do?
After much thought, I went with the green-screen effect (think Matrix.) We casted 48 actors. Hired two. This accomplished several things in one shot:
1. A teen audience could quickly connect with the actors (who I directed NOT to act.)
2. The message could be crafted in a "hip" way without a TelePrompTer; there was plenty of room for fun ad-libbing by the young actors, while still retaining and delivering the important information.
3. The green-screen effect gave me lots of creative freedom to create any cool graphic background I wanted; I could use words, animated designs, strengthen branding, etc. It created a "virtual" place or "world" the actors lived in; it was their "home."
After the filming.
During the edit process, one of my most commonly used "secrets" to sustain viewer attention is to select music and change it up every 30 seconds. This creates a feeling of continuous movement...not a moment is given up to make you lose interest. Also, intense graphic design and carefully chosen language from my long-time scriptwriter produced the right effect to keep the audience engaged, informed and entertained.
Challenge #3: "How do I show first aid for someone having a seizure?"
Solution: Slow it down!
This took a long time to resolve. I went through every possible scenario; actors, real teens, clinical footage, re-creations. In the end, I used a blend of two actors and a teen "hero" from the second epilepsy video, the documentary "Out of the Shadows."
I taped two first aid seizure scenes in "slo-motion." We actually walked through two "fake" seizures and described what to do if someone sees a person having a seizure. Then in editing, we reinforced the first aid message by inter-cutting full-frame graphics into the first aid scenes. It worked like a charm.
A new story is told.
I hope that this has given you some insight towards understanding how corporate videos can be emotional, entertaining, meaningful and inspiring.
These two films have changed my life in many ways. I can only hope and dream that these videos transform the lives of those who watch them.